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It is a 79 dollar tube amp... Don't expect much and to be honest I prepared myself but I was surprised at how weak it is. I used my borderpatrol DAC SE with all amps. I tested o2 amp, schiit lyr v1, element amp, and the sp100. I also tested e-mu teak, focal elear, he-4xx, he-500, and a q701. The q701 sounded fine (bass wise) with the sp100 but every other headphone felt like it was held back. The hifiman headphones I had to crank the volume wayyy up to get same volume on the others. Bass was just lacking on all headphones with this amp and details are less (Feels muffled). It sound anemic compared to my other amps especially on the he headphones with the shiit lyr.
If the sp100 is your first amp then you will most likely be happy and not notice the characteristics i noticed (at least not to the same degree). But once you experience something with more oomph/clarity then you can tell the sp100 has limits (im hoping its the cheap stock tube).
For example, Quincy Jones's Moonglow is spectacular to listen too... But on the sp100 it feels somewhat muted and muffled. It is harder to identify all the sounds, you have to focus while on say my schiit lyr im bombarded with sounds of instruments.
On Body and Soul with Tony Bennett and Amy Winehouse... Amy has this super luscious juicy voice that is lost and muted on the sp100....
Note: I have ordered a bunch of quality tubes NOS and new. I will report back when i test them. I have been pleasantly surprised before by changing stock chinese tubes before so I'm hoping its the same experience here.
I bought this amp and am considering ordering replacement tubes. Any improvements from your tube upgrades? If so please let me know, thanks! :)
I did order tubes but took a month for shipping. I havent tried it yet but Ive been using the amp exclusively since i wrote the review and my ears have adjusted. It sounds good now that I have been giving it a proper burn in and listen with my he-4xx. I'd have to say this is, so far, one of the better sub 150 amps i've owned but I've never expected much to begin with in this segment. I have had a cheap schiit magni and a cheap o2 amp. So far I think headphones like he-4xx do very well with this amp and sound great. I wasn't a fan of my focal elear with this amp, felt a little flat. But the HE-4xx has the right sound signature to pair with this amp and I highly recommend the combo. I'll unpack the tube this week. Give it a proper listen and let you know if I notice anything.
Just tested some random used russian tube I got sent (was sent a bunch of random NOS, used, and new tubes). Right off the bat the stock tube is inferior. I'm already getting more details and I am listening to the same tracks I used (have a playlist) testing all other headphones and amps. I also havent touched anything but this amp, he-4xx, and borderpatrol dac se for past month. Do your self a favor, even a used random russian tube is better, and throw that stock tube out. The bass is looser on this russian tube but it feels like someone took their hands off my ears. The clarity difference is that big, bass is significantly weaker but everything else improved.
For example on the track "talk torque" by scuba, at the 1:20 mark generally get slammin bass on my setups but on this tube its laid back but the second the thunder storm sound rolls in... My god its wayyyyyyy clearer and bounces around in my head. I hear so many more background sounds/instruments/beats.
Tracks sound more open and less restricted. Most of my tube amps came with quality tubes from GE and so on. This is the first time i got a cheap chinese one stock and I'm not sure if this is normal but it really really stinks.
Do yourself a favor and pick up a GE 5670W. It is pin compatible with the 6N3P, and leaps and bounds better. The tolerances on the 5670W tube are great enough that grabbing one from eBay isn't horrible, and they can be had for less than $6. No real need to get them balanced, which is freaking awesome from the replacement standpoint. If you don't trust the eBay and can stand to spend a touch more, https://tubedepot.com/products/ge-5670w-and-5670-to-6922-adapter-combo is a great option. Tick all the checkboxes and when it arrives just toss the adapter to the side.
If you want a Russian tube you can find 6N3P-EV (6Н3П-ЕВ) on eBay also for crazy cheaps. Like $1 a pop if you don't mind buying 50. The tolerances on the 6N3P-EV are a bit looser than the 5670W, but not enough to really require getting them with tested balanced triodes.
And yes, the Chinese 6N3 that SMSL (and LOXJIE) ship with their SP100 (and P20) amps are complete garbage. They're Milspec, but totally muffled sounding. There is a bloody night and day difference between them and even the cheapest of Russian 6N3P.
Just a side note: A 6N3P-EV or 5670W used with a 5670 to 6922 adapter is a sweet way to get amazing sounding tubes for a 6922 based amp without having to spend the stupid money people want for 6922.
Thanks for the tips, was thinking getting gold lion tubes but am going to order a Jan 5670 instead!
What if anything have you changed on your sp100? I'm listening to my m50x as full volume and it's just enough volume really not any better than my phone. I do have a jan 5670 on the way. 6xx and 4xx don't perform well, nor do my beyers. I have another set up, but this is my only tube amp. Just curious about your results.
it was not that good. for some reason there is slight channel imbalance, even after switching to 5670.
I ran it through the el dac and the Loki, made a huge difference. But, oddly enough I just ran it alone with m40x, that sounded great, the reverb was more prevalent than the other headphones.
Happy to report the 5670 made a noticeable difference on the positive side. I think your channel imbalance may be a faulty unit.
Can you describe the changes the amp brought to your m40xs, both at stock and after tube rolling? I'm considering that amp for that specific headphones
More reverb mostly, but also a punchy bass. I added the m100 dac also, seemed to add some volume.